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Lwalwa Circumcision Mask Female Mushika Congo African Art

Regular Price: $210.00

Special Price: $175.00

Product #: 91375
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Title Lwalwa Circumcision Mask Female Mushika Congo African Art
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin DR Congo
People Lwalwa or Lualu
Materials Wood, pigment, vegetal fibers
Approximate Age 20th century
Dimensions 12 inches H. x 8 inches W.
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair General wear


Additional Information:
The Lwalwa have produced some of the most sweeping and dramatic masks in all of the Congo Basin, which are best appreciated from the side, in profile. The group lives in a fertile but isolated region, near the confluence of the Kasai and Lueta rivers and, despite their historical ties to the Kete, a sub-group of the Kuba, they have developed a unique and easily recognized style. Their artistic tradition is limited almost exclusively to masks, with statues almost unknown, and their pieces are scarce. Masks are used at the end of initiation periods and after circumcisions.


String was passed through the small hole between the mouth and the nose allowing the dancer to hold the mask in place with his teeth. This is a female mask called Mushika and recognized by its crest across the top of the head. The mask was used as a dance mask during the final phase of initiation ceremonies known as Ngongo, which is the rite of passage of young boys from the children hood to the adulthood. Such masks also appear at funerals and hunting rites. Other Lwalwa dancing masks of initiation include Nkaki, Mvondo and Shifola.


Masks from the Lwalwa people are the best known art forms identified to this relatively small group located in the Kasai River region along the Angola-Democratic Republic of the Congo border. 


The Lwalwa lived originally in parts of the old Lunda Empire, but they refused to submit to Lunda rule and moved south. Today they are politically aligned with the Salampasu, Mbagani, and Kete. Some elements of the famous warrior masks of the Salampasu can be found in our example, like the bulging forehead, rectangular eyes, and large nose. The mouth and delicate upward curve of the chin set them apart, however.


Recommended Reading:


F. Neyt, TRADITIONAL ARTS AND HISTORY OF ZAIRE, pp.201-209


Timmermans, P. ‘Les Lwalwa’ in “Africa-Tervuren” 13, 1967.


J. Cornet, “A Survey of Zarian Art”. 1978.